How to Win the Lottery

You're probably thinking "who doesn't want to win the lottery?" Sure, we'd all love to have tens or hundreds of millions given to us for simply picking a few numbers. But often, winning the lottery is often the worst thing to happen to a person rather than the best thing. Just ask Jack Whittaker, winner of $315 million through the lottery – his winnings made him one of the least popular people in his community and resulted in the death of his granddaughter. Dozens of other big jackpot winners have found their relationships with friends and family go bad, thanks to their winnings. Yes, we all could use more money, but as we'll see, the lottery is the worst vehicle for it.Gambling in general is one the worst uses of time and money. The book "The Millionaire Mind" by Dr. Thomas Stanley contains statistics about millionaires and how they became wealthy. One point that Dr. Stanley makes is that the amount of gambling one does is inversely proportional to their wealth. Most deca-millionaires (people with a net worth in excess of $10 Million) gamble only rarely (if at all) and yes, the lottery counts as gambling.

Except for a few rare instances, it is nearly impossible to make a profit (forget about a living) from any legal form of gambling. The odds in a casino overwhelmingly favor the house; otherwise the casino wouldn't remain in business for long. Consider the fact that the payoff rate for table games are substantially lower than the odds and slot machines are merely computers designed to pay out far less than what they take in. In the case of the lottery, the odds of winning are so low that you're more likely to get struck by lightening than you are to win the jackpot. So how can overcoming such astronomical odds be such a bad thing? There are three basic challenges that jackpot winners must overcome: perception, adjustment and expectations.

Gambling related jackpots are often perceived as money that isn't earned. Unlike starting a business or working hard to climb the corporate ladder, you didn't do anything to earn the money so others perceive you as "lucky" and then sour grapes syndrome kicks in. Sadly, many people feel that because someone they know comes into money in this manner, they deserve a piece of the action. Things can get ugly and your relationship can quickly deteriorate – in some cases, people have sued their relatives (including their spouse) to get what they perceive as their "fair share." And not all of these people are people you know – anyone remotely connected to you will crawl out of the woodwork looking for their piece of the action. Even strangers that want or need money will find a way to contact you so they can take advantage of any charity you may be willing to offer them. A little preparation in this area will eliminate a significant amount of stress.

This type of behavior also happens with those who earn their money. I once read a "letters to the editor" piece in my local newspaper in which a woman criticized a wealthy business owner for not donating money to a project to expand the local library. The tone of her letter was that the project needed money and he had a lot of it, so therefore he should give his money to the project. It's amazing how some people feel that they are entitled to other people's money, hard-earned or not.

The next challenge is that it is difficult to adjust from a modest lifestyle to an affluent lifestyle in a short period of time. When you earn money the old fashioned way, you're mentally preparing yourself for wealth throughout the whole process. Your value system is also adjusting as you feel the satisfaction of reaping the fruits of your labor. Winning the lottery happens so fast that you don't have the luxury of time to figure out what to do what your wealth. Undoubtedly, you'll have lawyers, financial advisors and even well-intentioned friends and family members overwhelming you with suggestions of what to do with it. You may even find yourself a little less mindful of your spending since the money came so easily. It's important to not fall into this trap.

The final challenge to overcome is with your expectations. Winning a jackpot is a means, not an end and too few winners realize this at first. Before you score a big win, you'll probably think that it'll wipe away all your problems. So after you win, you pay off all your bills, buy the things that you've always wanted. But then you may realize that you're still not completely happy – you're friends and family treat you differently, people are always hounding you for money and then you start to change. You expect that your money can solve everyone else's problems, even though it hasn't really solved you. Change doesn't happen automatically – you have to work at it. So if you're disorganized and bad with tracking your finances, a big lottery win won't make things any better – if anything, it'll make things worse. You see the winnings as a way to buy yourself out of your problems, but it

The lesson here is that a deeper understanding of our goals will save us a lot of problems when we achieve them. We all want (and could use) a lot of money, but how we get it can affect whether or not we're happy achieving our goals. Becoming wealthy will change us, regardless of our vehicle for getting there. Winning a big jackpot can be a great thing, just make sure you're prepared for the consequences.

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